Muskogee glass manufacturing plant to get new pollution controls following EPA citation

MUSKOGEE, Okla. - A Muskogee glass plant, along with four other manufacturing plants owned by Ohio-based Owens Brockway Glass Container, Inc., will be retro-fitted with new pollution control equipment after being cited and fined for violating the Clean Air Act.

The nation's largest glass container manufacture on Monday agreed in a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to install the equipment in order to reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter by nearly 2,500 tons per year and to pay a $1.45 million penalty for the violations.

"The pollution controls required by today's settlement will significantly reduce emissions that can impact residents' health and local environment in communities located near glass manufacturing plants," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, in a news release issued Monday announcing the settlement. "These new pollution controls will improve air quality and protect communities from Georgia to Texas from emissions that can lead to respiratory illnesses, smog and acid rain."

The EPA said in its statement the new pollution controls required as part of the settlement will cost the company an estimated $37.5 million. Additionally, the settlement requires that of the $1.45 million to be paid in penalties, approximately $1.2 million must be paid to the United States government and $242,000 to ODEQ – a signatory to the settlement.

A spokesperson for the company told 2NEWS on Tuesday that as a leading manufacturer and supplier of glass packaging products, [Owens-Illinois, Inc] recognizes its responsibilities to the environment and the communities in which it operates.

"O-I's policy is to conduct all of its operations in compliance with applicable local, state and federal environmental regulations," said Beth Perry, saying the company has agreed to resolve the claims raised by the EPA. "While the company disputes EPA's claims, it has agreed as part of the settlement to install equipment that will reduce air emissions at the plants in Waco, Muskogee, Crenshaw and Atlanta."

The other facilities covered in the action are located in Atlanta, Ga.; Clarion, Penn.; Crenshaw, Penn; and Waco, Texas.

According to the case's documents filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the Muskogee plant which manufactures glass containers for the food and beverage industry first began operation in 1947 as Brockway Glass Company, Inc., and became property of Owens-Illinois, Inc. in a 1988 merger.

The citations stem from changes which the plant made in 1992 to two furnaces – changes which "resulted in a significant increase in NOX emissions" and were made without pre-construction permits – permits required by federal and state regulations, according to the settlement papers.

According to the EPA, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, three pollutants emitted from glass plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and the environment.

NOx and SO2 contribute to smog and acid rain and destroy ecosystems. NOx and SO2 can also irritate the lungs and aggravate of pre-existing heart or lung conditions. The microscopic particles of particulate matter can travel deep into the lungs and cause difficulty breathing, coughing, decreased lung function, and even death.

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